Sara Carvalho: I Felt as if Dozens of Wasps Were Stinging My Face
It all started 11 years ago, in Portugal. I had just entered a nursing school, attending an anatomy class there, when, out of the blue, I got a call saying I was signed by “Central Models” agency in Lisbon. So, soon I will have a challenge on how to combine both my medical studies and a modeling career. But let’s go back to the summer of 2012, when I was just surfing through my Facebook feed when I saw an advertisement of a modeling contest.
I never considered myself good enough to ever become a model. At the time, I thought a model had to be someone with a unique appearance, and when I looked in the mirror and saw an ordinary girl, with her ordinary brown eyes matching her ordinary long brown hair — as they say, a “girl-next-door” features. So, without having any serious expectations, I signed up for the competition and sent them some regular photos of my face and body. I didn’t even hope to get a reply, so I carried on with my summer without ever thinking about the competition again.
One day, unexpectedly, I got a call from Lisbon. Who could it be?! All my friends were from Porto, so I thought it must have been some telecoms company bothering me with their new services. I was surprised when I realized the call was from a modeling agency, asking me to come to Lisbon for a casting. They saw the photos I sent for the contest and wanted to meet me in person. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t yet 18 years old and my parents didn’t feel comfortable with me going to Lisbon on my own. In fact, it was a 3-hour train drive, but they wanted someone to go with me. However, the train ticket was expensive, and I didn’t want to ask a friend to spend that amount of money just to accompany me. So, I went alone on the train to Lisbon, still feeling myself as a girl who didn’t think she had what it takes to be a model.
The trip was worth it: the agency liked me, and they noticed in me something that I have never seen before myself! However, I was worrying now about my nursing degree, which was an intense four-year long course, and I realized it would be hard to combine it all now. This is where I started to learn how to manage my career and my life. While the degree was getting more and more demanding, I began to have internships that I couldn’t miss, while the opportunities to work as a model grew with every day too.
It was in 2015, when I was yet in my third year at the university, when the opportunity to go on a modeling trip to Barcelona arose. I asked my parents what would they say if I stop my medical course and go to Barcelona, but they didn’t approve of course. I felt that was a unique opportunity, and I would be able to finish the course at any time later. Unlike the opportunities in fashion, which can be quite rare. So, I decided to go and spend almost a year living in Barcelona, where I got signed by “Berta Models” agency.
On my first day of visiting the Spanish agency, my booker gave me my modeling book and the map of the city. The next day I had to go to six different castings, all of which were in different parts of the city. I was so nervous! Firstly, I didn’t have internet on my phone and secondly, I didn’t know the city at all. So, I had to manage everything on my own. The weather in Barcelona was so hot and humid that I arrived at the castings all sweaty. That first day experience taught me a lot!
But the second day appeared to be even a greater challenge! On the previous day photoshoot, the makeup which they put on me was not of a really good quality, and my face skin reacted to it very sensitively. So, on this second day, without having enough time to recover my face from yesterday, I had the new makeup to be done by another makeup artist, and when she started to work, I felt as if dozens of wasps were stinging my face! My skin started swelling up. I immediately went to a pharmacy to buy a strong antihistamine. So, the job day was almost ruined. However, I managed to pull myself together, wore sunglasses to disguise the swelling face, and I rocked it on the photoshoot! The same client hired me three more times after that photoshoot, because they liked my attitude that day. The time in Barcelona helped me to grow!
What about the nursing degree, you may ask. Did I managed to finish it? Yes, of course! And I was super happy to finally achieve that goal. However, when I finished my degree, I didn’t want to start working as a nurse, I wanted to focus 100% on my modeling career. And so, I did. And the appearance of new opportunities was not long in coming! In 2018, I got a chance to participate in a Portuguese soap opera! It was certainly an experience unlike anything I’d done so far! But, I admit to say that being an actress is not easy — everything starts from scratch when you play a new character. And this is difficult both physically and emotionally.
In 2022, I decided to quit occasional nursing jobs and get back to the vibrant city of Barcelona to work there as model full time. After spending there almost a year, I finally moved to London where I am right now while writing this article. Opportunities here are endless but time will show!